Cultural Studies Interdisciplinary Graduate Program: Theses

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    Land Matters: Stories of Survival, Peasant Roots & Peasant Futurisms
    Fejzic, Sanita; Cultural Studies; Willmott, Glenn
    Combining my literary writing practice with academic research, this doctoral research-creation project reads ecological and social violence as “one phenomenon” caused by early capitalism and intensifying after the industrial revolution in 1850, and especially after the neoliberal tide post-1945 (Moore 120-136). My project responds to the social, ecological and climate crisis subjectively, from my situated knowledge. As a type of life writing that tends toward autotheory, the “Stories of Survival” section deconstructs narratives of empire building, colonization, nation-state borders of exclusion, and the often-traumatic experiences of a refugee, illegal immigrant, and temporary guest who immigrated to Canada not by choice, but as an act of survival. This opening section is told from the point of view of my (severed) relationship to land and sets the narrative and theoretical context for the next two chapters. Disillusioned by my stories of survival, the “Peasant Roots” chapter returns to my ancestral past and explores the life of my Bosniak (Muslim Bosnian) peasant grandparents through knowledges, values, and practices of subsistence farming and self-sustainability; local gift, barter and exchange economies; the čaršija (farmers’ market) as a mechanism for local economies (Lockwood 120); komšiluk (neighbourhood life), halal exchange, and collaborative labour as practices of mutual aid (Henig 3); the zadruga (multigenerational household) and peasant minimalism (Barić 3-7). From these peasant roots, I articulate a kind of re-enchantment through an alternative futurity which I call “Peasant Futurisms.” So as not to reproduce white supremacy and other forms of domination, this subaltern world-building project is a work of political art meant to be taken up by members of what Fred Moten and Stefano Harney call “the undercommons,” including Black, Indigenous, queer, trans, poor, disabled and peasant folk. As a nexus of neoliberal power, cities and urban lifeworlds represent patterns of power, capital, and nature that must be challenged. Peasant Futurisms challenges capitalist cities built for cars and big commerce by sketching edible and wilder ecocities surrounded by protected greenbelts and peasant/regenerative organic farmer belts within local cyclical economies.
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    Massey and Me: Conversations at the End of Theatre
    Stanley, Sarah G.; Cultural Studies; Robinson, Dylan
    Massey and Me: Conversations at the End of Theatre is a four-part audio and lecture experience inspired by the renowned Canadian Massey Lectures, with a dangling fifth part that introduces video in an attempt to disrupt the originating structure. This series delves into the cultural influence and enduring legacy of the Massey Commission, which has played a significant role in shaping Canadian culture since its establishment in 1951. The Massey Commission, led by Vincent Massey, was a critical undertaking that sought to investigate and revitalize Canadian arts and culture in post-World War II Canada. Its sweeping recommendations, including increased government funding and support for the arts, and a disavowal of Indigenous cultures, have had a profound impact on the development of Canadian identity, artistic expression, and Canada's place in the world. “Massey and Me” examines how these recommendations have influenced Canadian society and through introspective argumentation and personal narratives, aims to illuminate the cultural stranglehold that the Massey Commission has had over Canadian society and the narrator's own life. This research-creation is an exploration of the intersections between culture, identity, and public policy, encouraging audiences to critically examine the enduring impacts of the Massey Commission, and structures that help to reify them, like the Massey Lectures and, without knowing what they are, seeks to open a portal for future possibilities.
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    Margins in Motion: Towards a Political History of Zine Culture
    Legendre, Izabeau; Cultural Studies
    This thesis is a problem-based history of zine culture. It is conceived as an intervention in the burgeoning field of Zine Studies. It spans across about a century of zine history and covers a wide range of corpuses: from science fiction fanzines of the 1930s and 1940s to punk and post-punk zines of the 1970s to 1990s, to more recent graphzines and artzines. Its comparative approach also covers large areas: North America and Western Europe, English and French linguistic areas. Through a series of case studies, important theoretical questions are addressed: How are zines defined? On what grounds was zine culture founded? What role did political discourses and ideologies play in zine history? How is the international dissemination of zine culture affected by culture at the national level? What are the political consequences of Zine Studies on zine culture? The political underpinnings of these questions are the focus of my approach, the objective being to recast the notions of “zine history” and “zine politics” in more clearly defined terms. The overall aim of this thesis is thus to open new questions and renew a field of study in steady growth since its inception more than 25 years ago.
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    Agents of Inscription: Rewriting the Monumental Landscape at the Place des Montréalaises
    Silver, Angela; Cultural Studies; Kibbins , Gary
    In a different constellation of urban struggles, women are the protagonists of a new form in the production of public space at the Place des Montréalaises (PDM). Combating the bronze ceiling, the PDM amends Montreal’s memory culture by “unforgetting” women in public representational space. This proposition argues for the representation of women via text-based art as the values represented via sculptural figurative elements have become obsolete. Serving as a case study, this proposition is being tested through a major piece of public urban design through the creation of a city park within a major Canadian city in front of its city hall. We are collectively witnessing the failures of a post-colonial heritage comprised of didactic and classical monuments in a contemporary world. Despite the eventual failures of the commemorative landscape, rooted in values and fixed in time, this does not preclude our collective instinct to memorialize. Rather it upholds a community’s endeavours to create a memorial landscape with the caveat that beliefs change with an acceptance that the relevancy of monuments will shift. I address two interwoven questions in this dissertation. The first examines the PDM in the orbit of social forces by re-evaluating monuments through an inclusive lens. As the PDM is being built, Montreal’s surrounding commemorative landscape is actively under reconsideration. Groups have focused their attention on three prominent statues owned by the Montreal public art program, resulting in two statues being toppled while the bronze statue of Queen Victoria on Sherbrook Street is under protective wrapping following a series of aesthetic actions: buckets of green paint were poured over the statue, followed by a second incident involving more-visible red paint. In this context, what role does the PDM have in building, maintaining, and contesting the city’s commemorative landscape? The second question examines the PDM as a case study in the deployment of art-based inscription as the aesthetic strategy of gender representation designed to work toward a more accurate reflection of Montreal’s evolution. Does art-based text have the power to reconfigure representations of gender through public memory production at the PDM?
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    Comic Resilience: Reducing the Risk of Triggering Survivors in Sequential Art
    Proulx, Melanie; Cultural Studies; Dorit, Naaman; White, Amanda
    This doctoral research-creation project examines how comics can lower “the risk of triggering reception,” that is, the psychological risk readers with PTSD face when exposed to (both fictional and nonfictional) testimonies of trauma in comics. By combining autoethnography, textual analysis, and comic creation/an original graphic novel, this research suggests that implementing distancing narrative features, aesthetic devices that provide readers with psychological or emotional distance, can lower the risk of triggering reception. To begin, a variety of comics containing depictions of sexual violence in comics created by women were read. Based on embodied responses to these representations, the comics were then separated into two categories: triggering and non-triggering. Patterns observed in the non-triggering comics became the basis of the distancing narrative features explored in this project. Building on supporting evidence from other academics, distancing narrative features were exemplified through close readings of three chosen texts: Diane DiMassa’s Hothead Paisan, Daphne Gottlieb and Diane DiMassa’s Jokes and the Unconscious, as well as Una’s Becoming Unbecoming. The distancing narrative features discussed in this project include 1) obvious fictitiousness; 2) preventing overidentification; 3) empowerment; 4) avoiding triggering details; 5) indirect communication; 6) avoiding permanent victimhood; 7) cathartic release; and 8) slowing down the reading process. For the creative portion of the work, these distancing narrative features were applied in the form of an autobifictional graphic memoir based on the author’s sexual violence experiences. Since the nature of trauma and comics are both fragmented, the book features small narrative fragments woven together with a larger metanarrative that is based on the creation of the comic. Drawing the comic enabled the distancing narrative features to be tested from a creator’s perspective. While the distancing narrative features may have helped prevent the artist from being triggered when drawing, they did not completely mitigate the emotional impact of examining one’s trauma. However, the distancing narrative features effectively prevented triggered states while reading.